Marry after you’ve fought
Park Jin-Seng, doctor at Park’s Psychiatric Clinic
By Kelly Frances
You may remember Frank Sinatra crooning, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” According to experts, so does a healthy marriage and arguing.
Dr. Park Jin-seng, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who specializes in family counseling, urges couples to view the act of arguing as a valuable tool.
Park penned a book about the subject titled “Lovers, Marry After You’ve Fought.”
“People would ask me why I encourage fighting between lovers,” he said. “Through fighting, we understand our partner’s minds; their likes, dislikes, wants, needs.
We establish our ability to reconcile. No couple can live without fighting forever, so if we lack this ability, marital life is difficult.”
Park urges people to eliminate their fear of fighting.
“Every couple has to go through the process of a first big fight, or ‘blow out,’” he said. “It’s a way of learning our partner’s limits. What we do with this knowledge will shape the patterns of our communication, and ultimately, determine whether or not we will grow in a productive way.”
Park refers to the iconic image of the moonlit night, during which a lover is serenading his companion outside her window.
“In some ways, this is a metaphor for a typical argument,” he explained. “A lover is appealing for attention, expressing a desire to be loved. The most profound desire is love, dependency, need,” he said. “Every person needs these things. When we argue, a common underlying emotion is the urgency to feel love and attention. However, we can’t always feel love, which leads to frustration, which leads to anger or hostility. If we understand this process, we can think about our anger reversely.”
Park identified some common warning signs that a couple needs help.
“Projection-based fighting is very serious. This means that the person fighting is angry because of another circumstance, but lashes out at their partner,” he explained. “If the reason for the fight repeats, it’s a bad sign, especially if there is violence, which, in my experience, can often come from women, and become a means of communication.”
Park explained that acknowledging limits is critical to reducing conflicts.
“When a partner establishes a “yellow card” or “near limit” level, and the partner repeatedly reaches this level and continues to push, it shows a lack of respect, and the fight is unproductive. We always have the ability to choose what type of fight we will have.”
Regarding conflict resolution, Park alludes to the meaning associated with a traditional Korean lunar calendar, and the sentiment that each day is a fresh start with a new emotional climate.
“The moment passes, and our emotions change,” he said. “Everybody has a weak day, everybody has weak moments.”
Park also emphasized the role of intimacy in reconciliation.
“It is never a good idea to go to bed angry, though in the face of possible violence, cool off time is critical. I think that sex is a powerful tool in reconciliation.”
Park advises 3-12 weekly sessions for couples before marriage.
“People often view therapy with reluctance, but I am seeing attitudes changing,” he said. “I always tell my patients not to forget the metaphor or the serenade, a healthy argument can be another form of the serenading your love.”